contractor dispute officeWhen you hire a contractor to work on your home, you expect high quality results and top-notch service. Of course, what you expect and what you get may not be the same thing. In addition to costs, you also have to ensure the contractor completes the job the right way.

If problems arise, you may have to initiate a dispute with your contractor. Unfortunately, settling a dispute with a contractor can be difficult, uncomfortable, and stressful. The way you approach your dispute helps determine your success.

Use the following tactics before you initiate a dispute with a contractor to ensure a successful outcome:

Sign a Contract
Before the project gets underway, both parties should sign a contract. The contract protects you and your contractor in the event of a dispute. Make sure both parties adhere to the terms of the contract. While most contractors have a standard contract, in some instances you may have to supply your own contract. If your contractor will not sign a contract, move on to another contractor.

If delays or problems occur once the project begins, sit down with your contractor and review the contract together. Once you have reviewed the document, determine the next steps to get the project back on track. Don’t jump to conclusions or assume your contractor wants to default on your agreement. Your contractor may have legitimate reasons for changing the terms of your agreement and may not realize you need regular updates about changes to the project.

Express Your Concerns
Your contractor won’t know about potential issues unless you voice your concerns. Try to avoid using an accusatory or confrontational tone when you begin the discussion. Instead, explain your concerns to the contractor without using threats or expressing judgment. Mix-ups and hold-ups can happen; give your contractor an opportunity to provide reasons for project delays or changes. A simple conversation may fix the problem and get the project back on track.

Three Questions to Ask
Last summer I had a lot of exterior work completed on my home. From paint to new doors and more, I supervised many jobs. Unfortunately, two of the projects became the basis of a dispute with the contractor. Call it bad luck. Call it a bad choice on my part. Either way, I had to work with the contractor to resolve the disputes. During both disputes, I found three questions helped to resolve the outstanding issues:

  • What Do You Propose We Do to Solve the Issue? This question allows you to dig deeper and puts the contractor on the spot. The contractor may have a workable solution that resolves your dispute.
  • Would You Like to Review the Contract? Work contracts have no gray areas; the contractor must complete the agreed upon work to fulfill the contract. Once your contractor knows you want to take a closer look at the contract, he or she will more than likely offer a potential solution to the dispute.
  • What Can I Do to Help? Many people don’t want to offer the contractor assistance because they don’t think they should have to do anything. However, your contractor may benefit from your intervention. Showing your contractor that you want to help may make things much easier on both parties.

Financial Considerations
In addition to the satisfactory completion of projects, you need to keep a close watch on the budget. Make sure the contractor manages the hours worked, quality of materials used, and quality of construction according to your expectations. Keep the following in mind when reviewing the budget for a new project:

  • What Should You Get for Your Money? Explicitly state the terms of the project in the contract. Review the terms of the project with your contractor to ensure the contractor addresses each of the items listed in the contract. For example, the contract to paint a house should include a general project overview, and details about specific additions or exclusions like doors, windows, and trim.
  • What Are the Payment Terms? You can negotiate the payment terms of your contract. If possible, avoid paying 100% upfront. If you do this, your contractor works from a position of power. On the other hand, when you hold the money, you hold the power. You can withhold payment if the job is not completed to your satisfaction.

Final Thoughts
Dealing with a contractor dispute can be difficult. Unfortunately, this may arise if you hire a contractor. Remember, a contract is a must. Never hire a contractor without first reviewing and signing this document together. In addition to stating the terms of the project in writing, communicate regularly with your contractor to make sure the project stays on budget. Open lines of communication help you deal with problems and issues as they arise and can eliminate the need for a dispute.

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5 Tips to Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

by Military Money Might

car loan calendarFor many people, buying a car is an enjoyable experience. What isn’t enjoyable is making monthly payments until you own the vehicle outright. If you finance the purchase of your vehicle, you are going to find yourself making a payment every month to your lender.

Generally speaking, car loans range in length from 12 to 72 months. The longer the term, the more money you are going to pay in interest. However, there are steps you can take to pay off your car earlier than expected. Just because you opt for a 72-month loan does not mean you have to wait this long to pay off your vehicle.

How to Quickly Pay Off Your Car Loan

1. Pay Extra Every Month

Every month, send in a little bit of extra money added on to your base payment. One of the best ways to do this is to round up your payment to the next “simple” number. For example, if your payment is $260 per month, you could decide on a round number, such as $275 or $300. The more you add, the quicker you will pay off your loan.

2. Switch to a Biweekly Payment Plan

By switching to a biweekly payment plan, you will essentially be making a payment every two weeks for half of the full payment you currently make once per month.

While it may appear that you’ll have paid the same in the end, there is actually one very big difference: With a biweekly payment plan, you end up making 26 half-payments per year, or 13 full payments. This works out to one additional full payment per year. However, you’ll need to check with your lender to see if this payment plan is available to you.

3. Make One Big Extra Payment Per Year

It does not matter when you do this – if at any point during the year you have extra money to spare, making a large payment can take a major bite out of your car loan.

Last year, I decided to pay an extra $2,500 after making my October car loan payment. This payment cut my remaining balance in half, but it was not the first time I employed this strategy. If you wish to make a big reduction on your car loan and work toward paying it off sooner, this is one of the most efficient ways of doing so.

4. Refinance Your Loan

This is only beneficial if done properly. Some consumers make the mistake of refinancing to a longer term to lower their payment. While it is true that your monthly payment will decrease, the amount of interest that you actually pay over the long haul may increase. Before you do this, work out all the numbers to ensure that it is beneficial to you and not the lender.

Remember: When you refinance, you should continue to pay the same amount monthly as you did under the previous terms - despite having a lower monthly minimum payment amount due. By doing so, you are actually paying extra per month, even though you are not required by the lender to do so. And because you refinanced to a lower interest rate, you’ll pay off the loan quicker than you otherwise would have.

5. Use Your Tax Refund

Every year, I make it a habit to put some or all of my tax refund toward debt. Is this fun? Not really. But it goes a long way in knocking out debt that would otherwise hang around for a long time.

Last year, I received a large refund thanks to a few tax credits that I qualified for. In turn, I was able to throw a couple thousand dollars at my car loan. When combined with paying a little extra every month and a large payment toward the end of the year, my loan balance was greatly reduced over the course of several months.

Final Thoughts

There is no rule saying that you have to pay your car off early. In fact, most people never even consider the option. But if you are tired of making a monthly payment and want to save on interest, this is a strategy to consider. Imagine the relief you’ll feel when you realize that your car loan has been finally paid in full and you own your vehicle outright.

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USAA Bank Reaffirms Its Philosophy Of Free Debit And Free Checking

October 1, 2011

In an environment where some major banks making plans to charge customers new monthly fees for using their debit cards, USAA Bank has recently reaffirmed that its debit card will continue to remain fee free. USAA has excellent service to military members and their families, and USAA Bank, the banking arm of the financial giant, […]

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Handing Down USAA For Generations Commercial

June 10, 2011

USAA has been putting out some great commericals lately on television with their latest campaign. Here is the latest USAA commerical, “Mine Was Earned”. How many banks and financial institutions in America can say that their customers hand down a legacy of using their products and services from one generation to another. Speaks volumes…

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